The screening gave viewers a bad case of the grip.

"I was gripped the whole time," said Jeff Bridges.

"I was so terrified, I squeezed everything I could get my hands on—my knees, Winona's arm, everything," said Johnny Depp.

"When I saw people gripping the handles of their chairs, I knew we were okay," said director Jonathan Demme.

The clutch performances were provoked by the L.A. premiere of The Silence of the Lambs (see review, page 17), the much-anticipated movie based on author Thomas Harris's 1988 thriller about a serial killer and a psychotic psychiatrist with Cuisinart tendencies. Nine hundred first-nighters paid $125 per ticket to see the film and, apparently undeterred by Lambs' hints of cannibalism, to dine afterward on chicken chili, shish kebabs, and blue cheese and onion tarts. Proceeds went to the AIDS Project Los Angeles, which helps feed, house and counsel AIDS victims in the L.A. area.

"Sometimes I was so scared I couldn't watch," said thirtysomething's Mel Harris, referring to the film, not the nosh. Jodie Foster, who stars in the movie as a fledgling FBI agent tracking the killer, simply couldn't speak. Asked to share her own reaction to the film, the actress replied, "Nah, there's already been too much of that," and chose to let her Silence speak for itself.